For her sophomore effort “This Side Of Morning”, vocalist Keri Johnsrud presents a collection of original material co-written with pianist Kevin Bales. Featuring a powerhouse band of Chicago musicians including guitarist Neal Alger, bassist Larry Kohut, drummer Jon Deitemyer, and vibraphonist Stephen Lynerd, Johnsrud explores a range of emotions in what amounts to a wonderful album of poetry set to music.
Much of the album conveys a sense of hope in times of loss. Keri describes difficult situations with a depth that evokes tenderness without coming across as trite or campy. Many of the questions asked in the lyrics read rhetorical, as if the overall melancholy tone of the music provides enough of an answer.
The inherent risk in combining elegies in narrative form with improvised music is that the two competing ideologies can sometimes create a final product that sounds forced and unnatural. Keri manages to keep things organic by employing a diverse range of musical styles to accompany her through-composed lyrics. The grooves on “From Here” and “The Chameleon” provide welcome contrast to the free-form solo sections featured in “A Thousand Tears” and “Fly Away”. Keri Johnsrud's crystal clear voice and impeccable intonation allow her to project true sentiment through dense lyrical material on this gem of an album.